Raivis Zeltīts: What is the ideology and mission of the Finns party youth? And what is the relation of your youth organization to the political party?
Liina Veronica Isto: A green, leftist ideology dominates the political field in Finland and even Social Democrats, National Coalition and Centre Party have adopted their ideology when it comes to climate issues, immigration, LGBTQ+, radical feminism, being pro-EU etc. Both the Finns Party and its youth wing are alternatives to practically all other parties in Finnish politics. We offer reasonable solutions to climate issues, criticize the current immigration policies, fall into the conservative category and wish to part from the EU. In other words, we are the only ones to challenge the status quo.
Our youth organization is independent from the Finns Party, although we are close-knit and receive funding from the party. Being young politicians, the members of our organization are often a bit more radical than older politicians and our members in the Finnish parliament. Our vision of Finland consists of prioritizing health care, education, infrastructure, jobs and the well-being of families. Putting the benefit of our own people above all else and anyone else is one of our core values. We want to secure the future of Finnish people and the Finnish nation state.
R.Z.: In the parliamentary election of 2019 Finns party had a very good results – you won 39 seats out of 200 – this was after an internal crisis of your party in 2017 when twenty (!) MP’s and all cabinet ministers left the party to protest an election of a more conservative dr. Jussi-Halla-aho as a party leader. What conclusions did Finns party gain from this? And, in your opinion, what is the lesson for conservatives of other European countries from these events?
L.V.I.: Before the events of 2017, our parliamentary group was very much divided and the former chairman and the ones close to him were called the “party’s elite”. They were very unapproachable in their ivory tower and demanded more dicipline from our members in the parliament than our current leaders do. After Halla-aho was elected chairman – to which the former chairman gasped in disbelief – and the 20 members of our parliamentary group had left to form their own party, we have become more unified. The relations between our youth organization and the party have improved dramatically. It truly feels like a breath of fresh air.
The new party, later named Blue Future, formed by those 20 people was very unsuccessful. It started out with a support rate of about 3,5% in the polls and that quickly decreased to about 1,5%. They did not get a single seat in the parliamentary elections in April nor in the EP elections in May. I personally believe this is mainly due to two things. First of all, a party formed by traitors – who swore to support the newly elected chairman, but look what happened – does not seem even remotely reliable to the general public. Secondly, they did not offer anything new to voters. Voters who are concerned about current immigration policies continued to support the Finns Party, and voters who are globalists continued to support literally any other party. In this second part lies the lesson for anyone who might have intentions to form a new party. It must offer something new to voters. It must fit into its own niche and represent something different from other parties. Being shy nationalists was not exactly a winning strategy.
R.Z.: Much of the popularity of Finns party in Finland comes from the clear anti-immigration stance of the party. Recently there was a scandal from the town of Oulu where foreign-born men had sexually abused adolescent girls. Can you tell me more about this scandal? Is this only the “tip of the iceberg”? It seems very similar to scandals in U.K. like the infamous Rotherham case. What changes your party proposes so that this kind of horrible events wouldn’t happen?
L.V.I.: The events in Oulu took place last summer, extending to fall and winter. Some 29 men have been suspected to have raped, sexually harrassed and/or assaulted girls, some even younger than 10. I do not remember seeing a single Finnish name when reading about the suspects – instead all names were of Arabic or African origin. One of the men got a prison sentence of three years and eight months for raping a child (which I think is mortifying). Many of the suspects are still on trial and that is a long process.
The cases are known to have included grooming – a practice of adult men showering an adolescent girl or girls with positive attention, gifts, alcohol and drugs and thus making “friends” with them. Once apparent trust is formed, the girl can be easily lured into someone’s apartment and then sexually assaulted. When visiting a shopping mall in nearly any big city in Finland, one can sometimes spot a group of grown, foreign men hanging out with finnish teenage girls. A lot of grooming also happens in messaging apps and it’s a little more difficult to determine the frequency of that. I believe that cases like the ones in Oulu are a bit more common than we know now.
Members of the Finns Party want longer prison sentences for several crimes, including rapes. We also want ethnic profiling to be allowed so that police forces can track down illegal immigrants more easily, and after that they should be sent back to their home countries as soon as possible. Overall, we want to end humanitarian immigration from third-world countries in order to decrease the frequency of all sorts of issues that the immigrants tend to bring with themselves.
R.Z.: Unlike other European countries that were outside of the Soviet bloc during, Finland has a historical experience in struggling against Russia to preserve independent state. At the same time, it seems to me that most of the Finnish political elite is as naive as are Western European politicians about the true intents of Russia. Finns party is an exception, for example in its promotion of energy self-reliance, but it seems that you are alone in this stance. How do you explain this phenomenon in Finnish politics?
L.V.I.: During the Cold War, Finland had a rather close relationship with the Soviet Union, even though the country wasn’t an actual satellite state. This relationship, and especially bilateral trade and internal influence by Soviet actors led to the phenomenom of “finlandization”, in which the Finnish political system had a sort of a “lapdog”-position towards the Soviet Union. Even today, the influence of those times is clearly visible in Finland, and it explains much of the timidness of Finnish politicians when dealing with Russia.
R.Z.: Finns party is also known for its hard-line Euroscepticism. Is this an ideological stance? What is it that you oppose in the idea of European Union? And what alternatives do you see in European geopolitics?
L.V.I.: From my viewpoint, members of the Finns Party do not oppose the idea of being a part of a European union, alliance etc. Instead, they oppose the idea of being a part of a union so ideologically dominant that it competes with individual nation states in some ways. The EU has its own anthem, flag and currency, all of which are characteristics of a country, and a big portion of Finnish youth share a strong feeling of being European. EU lobbyists shame nationalism while simultaneously trying to make Europeans feel a sort of patriotism towards the EU.
On top of that, being in the EU costs Finland hundreds of millions of euros every year. There are huge gaps between the living standards of different EU countries and apparently they have to be evened out at the cost of wealthier member states. The EU also regulates even minor things which should be up to individual countries to decide. In a situation where the laws of EU and those of an individual member state collide, the laws of EU will walk over the nation’s own laws. Overall, there are several things about being in the EU that significantly weaken the sovereignty of a single member, like Finland.
My personal stance to European geopolitics would be to become a member of NATO and then separate from the EU. We must have someone to have our back at all times in case Russia gets any ideas. I would also like to see closer relations between Nordic countries because we share similar cultures, economic situations and geopolitical challenges, and none of the countries would be “baggage” to the rest.